Thursday, June 28, 2012

Great New York 100 Miler RR

I honestly don't even know where to begin with this race report. I'm still kind of in awe of this weekend and how it went. Although I was the one doing the running, the whole time, it felt so surreal that I still have to pinch myself that it happened. Warning: this race report is essentially a novel. Don't say you weren't warned.

Long story short: I attempted and ran 100.3 miles this past weekend. Even typing that out felt weird, but it actually happened and I am so happy to share my story about the journey to finishing it. 

John and I bused up to NYC Friday midday and met up with my mom/sherpa, who was already in the city. On the bus ride up, I realized that I left my Nathan hydration pack at home, which was NOT going to be good. After grabbing a quick lunch and calling a bunch of running and sporting stores, we headed to Eastern Mountain Sports and found a hydration pack that would be sufficient for race day. So lucky my race was in NYC and not some small town so I could find a hydration pack. I would have been in a serious jam had I not gotten one.
David, myself, John and Bobby at Spumoni Gardens
We then headed to Spumoni Gardens near Coney Island for dinner with two of my pacers, Bobby and David. The pizza and pasta were unbelievable and it was really fun to catch up with those guys before the race. We discussed the plan for the race and mostly did a lot of laughing. Before you know it, we were heading back, I packed everything I needed for the race in the right bags, and went to bed around 10:30 pm.

At 3:50 am, my alarm went off. I stumbled out of bed, groggy and insanely nervous. John, my mom, and I grabbed our stuff and headed to Times Square. It was fairly empty at that time of day, filled only with drunks heading home and the other runners. I checked in, finished my breakfast, mingled a bit with some runners, and nervously awaited the start.
Photo Credt; Trishul Lorne W. Cherns
At around 5:15 am, after a few pictures of all of the racers, we were off! For the first few miles, I ended up with two women, Carol and Becky, and a guy, Marco. We ran through Central Park (really pretty when empty in the AM) and we slowly made our way north up the island. I ended up running a good portion of these miles with Marco, who was great to get to know.

We hit an aid station at mile 9.4 and soon enough, we entered the Brox and made our way to Van Cortlandt Park. I don't run trails much anymore living in Philly, but one of my favorite parts of the course was our trail section in this park. We did a good amount of walking up the hills, but the forests and trails were so beautiful and felt so invigorating to run through. Reminder: run on trails more!!
At mile 25
Eventually, we made it to the next aid station, at mile 20, where John and my mom were. I ate a strawberry glazed donut, gave them both hugs and kisses, and moved to the next section, which was an out and back. The temperature was starting to rise and I was doing my best to stay in the shade when possible and walk up bigger hills when we got to them. We made it back to the same aid station, this time at mile 25. I snagged some Pringles from my lovely crew and again, gave them kisses and hugs before heading off with Marco along the course.

The sun became a lot hotter, but Marco and I kept plugging along. We ran into another runner, Marc, and stuck with him as we made it to the aid station at mile 31 and then crossed the RFK bridge into Queens. We were walking more than I planned on it, but there were more hills than I had anticipated (not bad hills, just not ones that would have been smart to have run up).

I was starting to feel really warm and just was eager to see my mom and John. The next aid station, was along some water, which felt really nice. The aid station, though, ended up being 1+ mile past where the map said it was. I was starting to freak out and just wanted to see my mom and John. When I finally did, it felt great. I ate a bit more food, then kept going. At this point, I wasn't running with anyone else, which got a bit lonely.
Early on in the race. Photo Credit: Donna Saljuga-Tabios
Around mile 45, I really was feeling weak and tired. I caught up with Marco (we kept playing leap frog, passing each other back and forth) and he stressed how important it was for me to eat. I stopped, snacked on some roasted nuts that I had in my bag, and slowly trudged along. I started to realize that I may not be able to make my 24 hour goal for the race, but I just cared about making it to the finish in one piece (and under the time limit!).

I came in at mile 50 at around 11 hours and 56 minutes (making the originally set cut off of 50 miles in 12 hours...mental win for me!). Phil, the RD, warned us that some of the aid stations may not have volunteers as some weren't able to make it, which is what happened at mile 51. I kept running and running, just hoping to see some volunteer so I wouldn't feel so lonely. After I got to mile 54, I realized I must have missed the unmanned aid station. I just kept telling myself to push and push to mile 58, where my mom, John, and my pacer, Steph, would be.

I had to get to the 58 mile aid station by 14 hours and I got there with about 10 minutes so spare. I was BEYOND happy to see my crew, sit down, and eat some food. I hadn't been eating enough throughout the day and I have never tasted a more delicious sandwich than the turkey sandwich my mother made for me. I cleaned up my legs, got dirt and rocks out of my shoes, and headed out on the course with Steph.
Made the 58 mile cut-off in time! So ready for food!
Steph, a friend I've met through City Running Tours, was my pacer from miles 58-71. We ran through some not so pretty places in Queens to begin with, but she kept me going and helped distract me. She even played a memory game with me when I requested so I'd stop thinking about how much more running had to happen. We made a pit-stop in Starbucks for a smoothie (life saver!) and made our way to Far Rockway to meet my next pacer.

At mile 71, we met up with my mom, John, and David, who was my next pacer. I sat, snacked a bit, called another runner friend, who gave me great words of encouragement, then we headed out. Around this point, my stomach started to feel really sick. I was really excited because my Nana grew up in Far Rockaway and my mom spent a lot of her childhood here, but my stomach kept slowing me down and bumming me out. David was so great in being patient with me and he kept me going. We made it through the mile 75 mile aid station and slowly (we were going slowly and it felt EVEN SLOWER) made our way to Coney Island.
Blurry picture, but happy at mile 71 talking with runner friend
At mile 81, we met up with our friend Bobby, who was also waiting with John and my mom. My stomach felt awful and any attempt to use the bathroom to alleviate it didn't help. I was getting a bit more upset, but didn't let it affect my mood. Bobby, David, and I ran along the Coney Island boardwalk and when it ended, David headed back to Manhattan. At this point, my 24 hour time goal wasn't feasible, but after hearing how many people dropped form the race already, I was just determined to be an official finisher!

I really enjoyed my time with Bobby. He and I had fun talking about running, training, religion, our families, and New York. I was eagerly awaiting the sunrise and when it finally came, I was so happy. We made our way to the 90.7 mile aid station and I was so excited we were at the home stretch. If only I knew how tough the next 10 miles would be.

As we left the aid station, I started to do the math and wondered if I would make the time cut-off of 28 hours. I all of a sudden thought of getting to the end after 28 hours and not officially finishing and I started to cry. What if I spent so much time and had other people work so hard to help me for nothing?! Bobby did his best to cheer me up, but I was so upset. I was also so darn sore and in pain, I just felt so down. Where we were running in Brooklyn at this point wasn't really nice looking either.
At the mile 81 aid station
Bobby, holder of the map, wouldn't let me know what mile we were on. He knew we had to run 76 blocks on this not so pretty street, so instead of letting me know that, he kept saying that the 95 mile aid station (where John and my mom were) was "a bit ahead." I was so down and so upset, I just wanted to be done, but more importantly, I wanted to see John and my mom more than anything. I kept asking Bobby to talk to distract me, which he did a great job of doing.

What felt like forever later, I slowly recognized John and my mom in the distance. I immediately broke down in tears. I had wanted to hug and kiss them both so badly that when I saw them, I was so overwhelmed with emotion. I had a McDonald's hash brown (tasted so good!), and Bobby and I headed to Brooklyn Bridge for the last 5 miles.
I think I had the biggest smile on my face for the last 5 miles because I knew how close I truly was! We ran over the Brooklyn Bridge and I got to see so many beautiful views of NYC. We headed through Chinatown and soon enough, we were 1.5 miles away! Bobby told me we had to end up at 44th and Broadway. Once we turned on to Broadway, I started picking up my legs and counting down the blocks until I was done! Bobby told me by the end, I was running 8 minute/mile pace, which was the fastest I ran during the whole thing!

As I was sprinting in to the finish, I just was so overwhelmed. I saw my mom, John, Phil (the RD), and a competitor who had finished about 5 minutes before me. I immediately broke down in tears, just in awe of what I had accomplished. I waited for the last two official finishers to get to the finish and after thanking Bobby, Steph (who came back to see me finish), and Phil (the RD), we headed home to shower, eat, and eventually train back to Philly.
Finish with my amazing crew. Photo credit: Phil McCarthy 
In the end, I finished 12 out of the 14 finishers (31 people started). Even now, it's hard to think that I am actually a 100 mile finisher. It took a lot of hard work on my part, but I couldn't have done it without my mom, John, my amazing pacers, and the great friends I met along the course. I kept telling myself, "If it was easy, everyone would do it and it wouldn't be as rewarding." That phrase pushed me to the finish and really rang true once I was done. I will hold this weekend in my memory forever and cannot wait to see what ultras I run next.

Edit: Totally forgot to put my finish time, like a dope! I finished in 26 hours, 59 minutes, and 43 seconds!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Color Me Rad 5k and 100 Miler Prep

I had a pretty fun weekend! It started out with having friends over Friday for a pizza party! I made some pizza dough and sauce from scratch (pretty easy, actually!) and then prepped a bunch of fun toppings for everyone to pick from. I had spinach, mushrooms, red peppers, garlic, pepperoni, bacon, tomatoes, and yellow squash. I only snapped a picture of the pizza my guy friends made (covered in plenty of meat and not many veggies), but mine was a yummy pizza with lots of veggies.
Sunday, John and I got up early (for us on a Sunday!) to pick up some friends and head to the Color Me Rad 5k in near the Please Touch Museum. I was really excited for the race and wanted to see what kind of pace I could maintain for a 5k since I'm not really in speed-running shape. We were in the first wave and I made sure to have us start off in the front so I could run ahead of the people who would be walking or casually running.
Post-race with some college girlfriends
The race was fun and I ran the beginning of it with John! When we got to the color stations, since I was one of the first people to them, the volunteers were a bit timid and didn't know what to do. I definitely didn't end up with as much color as I thought I'd have on me by the end. Also, when I got to the finish, I looked down at my watch and saw it was at 18:20. I knew immediately the course was majorly short and after mapping it out at home, the course was only 2.6 miles! I ended up averaging 7:03 min/mile pace, which I'm shocked I was able to maintain. Wish it had been a full 5k so I could have seen if a PR was possible for me.
Before and after with the BF
Now the nerves are starting to begin; my 100 miler is now just 5 short days away! I've actually been trying to not think about it for as long as possible so I wouldn't get myself nervous, but now it's time to plan things out and get excited. I've got three awesome friends to pace me during the latter part of the race and I've got my travel and lodging situation all figured out.

The thing that is getting me nervous is that I'm attempting to run 100 miles. Just typing that out was scary! When I first heard about ultras and running 100 mile races, I knew I'd want to attempt it at some point, but didn't realize I'd try it so soon. The thing about a race of that distance is that it is truly so much larger and bigger than you. Whenever I meet anyone who has finished or even attempted a 100 miler, they automatically have a ton of respect from me. It's such a large feat to attempt and to have the courage and nerve to even attempt it is something I didn't think I'd ever have; I still don't feel confident that I 100% do. I am confident that I'm going to put one foot in front of the other for as long as is safe until I cross the finish line and join the league of 100 mile finishers. Hopefully my next post will be a successful race report!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

CSAs and Mexican Cabbage Rolls

When it comes to food, I'm passionate about it all around. One thing I'm particularly passionate about is local (preferably organic) farming. I'd prefer that my produce comes from smaller, local farmers so that I know exactly the process that went into growing the produce and so that I can financially support the little guy.

Last spring, summer, and fall, John and I were members of Greensgrow Farm and loved it. We had a half share of their CSA, which meant we went every other week to pick up veggies, fruit, eggs, and cheese (non-dairy options were available, too). This year, I decided to go with something different. As much as we enjoyed Greensgrow, driving to the Kensington section of Philly every other Saturday wasn't ideal and it took up more time than we would have liked.
Spring onion, green cabbage, dear tongue lettuce
We currently have a half veggie share with Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative. We pick up our produce every week only a few blocks from our apartment (less produce each week, which works out perfectly for how I cook!) and all of the produce is organic. In this week's share, I got a lot of great produce that I cannot wait to cook with.
Fava beans and beets
One thing I love about having a CSA share is that I get produce I forget that I love or even more fun, produce I've never cooked with. Sometimes it's intimidating to get something like fava beans because I have only eaten then once or twice in my life and have never cooked with them ever, but in the end, I'm so happy to get to learn how to cook a new vegetable.
Yellow squash and collards
The cabbage is what stumped me the most the week and I knew I had to cook with it tonight so I could at least use half of the giant head. I searched all over for recipes and finally found one that looked fairly easy to make. It also wasn't the standard cabbage rolls recipe as it had a Mexican twist. It was really yummy and I'm excited about all of the leftovers.
Delicious Mexican Cabbage Rolls
I cannot wait for the rest of our weeks so I can cook with some more new-to-me vegetables. Anyone else belong to a farm or have a CSA share? I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Philly Beer Week and Running Galore!

I can't believe the weekend is already over! I felt like it blew by! With Philly Beer Week beginning here this past Friday, the weekend flew by even faster.

Friday, John, myself, and a group of friends went to a restaurant and bar near us called Farmer's Cabinet to try some Mikkeller beers. I'm so used to drinking cheap beer that when I do drink nice, fancy beer, it really is a treat. We of course came back to our apartment and drank High Life, but for the small time that we drank good beer, it was great.

The two of us all gross after our morning run
Saturday morning, I was able to convince John to come run with me! That has only happened a few times in the 5 years that we have dated, but I really enjoyed the 3.1 mile run we had together. We stopped a few times to check out some sites we never do, like the Korean War Memorial in Old City, which was really cool.

After our run, we headed to meet friends at Prohibition Taproom for yet another Philly Beer Week event. This one involved Flying Dog beer (yay for a Maryland beer!) and dogs up for adoption by PAWS. About halfway through our time there, the Hammer of Glory appeared. The HOG is used by Philly's Mayor Nutter to smash open the first keg to start Philly Beer Week and it somehow was at the bar when we were! John and I enjoyed being able to hold it. I felt powerful!

Sunday, I woke up, had breakfast while I watched CBS Sunday Morning (I am 80 years old) and then headed out for my last super long run before I start tapering for my 100 miler. I ran nice and slow and unlike last Monday's heat wave run, the weather cooperated and I felt great! I got in 26.2 miles and while I was beyond happy to be done at the end, I know I could have kept going had I been racing. I ended my run at Jar Bar, a newly-opened raw and vegan place near my apartment. I wanted a cool drink after my run and knew something healthy would also hit the spot. I had their Coconut Dream smoothie with some protein powder thrown in for good measure. It tasted like a vanilla-coconut milkshake!

Overall, I had a great weekend, filled with a lot of beer and a lot of running. Luckily, the two go quite well together. Hope everyone else had a great weekend!